World Taekwondo "deeply regrets" the ban imposed on Israeli athletes at the World Junior Championships about to start in Tunisia

World Taekwondo has released a statement claiming it "deeply regrets" the ruling of a Tunisian court to ban four Israeli athletes from competing at the World Junior Championships in Hammamet.

The ruling, which comes against a background of increased tension in Gaza between the Israeli Army and Palestinian protestors, was sought by activists opposed to normalization with Israel.

A judicial official said the court rendered its decision earlier this week after the Tunisian group known as the National Commission for Supporting Arab Resistance and Opposing Normalisation and Zionism sued the President of the Tunisian Taekwondo Federation, Ahmed Gaaloul.

Prosecutor's spokesperson Sofiane Selliti told the Agence Tunis Afrique Presse that the court decision stipulates that Gaaboul cannot invite, or host, the four Israeli athletes whose names were on the list of contestants.

Gaaloul claimed they will not be invited because they did not complete the paperwork to enter the tournament.

World Taekwondo, which has held two days of qualification for the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires ahead of the Championships due to start after tomorrow’s rest day, said in a statement:

"World Taekwondo deeply regrets this situation, which has occurred despite significant efforts by World Taekwondo and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to allow the participation of all athletes at this event, reflecting the fundamental principles of the Olympic Movement.

"As a member of the Olympic Family, we believe it is important to always respect these principles."

Israeli athletes have been banned by a Tunis court from competing in World Taekwondo's World Junior Championships in Hammemet ©World Taekwondo
Israeli athletes have been banned by a Tunis court from competing in World Taekwondo's World Junior Championships in Hammemet ©World Taekwondo

World Taekwondo added: "We believe that sport should be a bridge between cultures and peoples and not a barrier.

"We saw sport’s power to unite nations at the Pyeongchang Olympic Winter Games where the joint-taekwondo demonstration between World Taekwondo and ITF, joint march of North and South Korea in the Opening Ceremony, and the historic Unified Korean women’s hockey team has led to the current reconciliation talks between the two countries.

"We are now in discussions with the IOC, the Tunisian Taekwondo Federation and local organisers regarding how to come to some solution for this situation.

"This includes solutions regarding the qualification of the Israeli athletes to the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018 so they are not disadvantaged.

"We hope that with continuing engagement the healing of these differences will also be possible in the future."

After 40 athletes had secured quota places for the Youth Olympics on the opening day of competition at La Salle Couverte Hammamet yesterday, 38 more places were on offer today.

A further 22 spots are also be up for grabs through wildcards and host city quotas to take the Buenos Aires 2018 field up to 100.